When you write a weekly opinion column, you stand naked in the wind. If you write what you think and express what you feel you expose yourself to all who care to object. But that’s the joy of writing, at least, for me.
When I was a University professor I welcomed students who disagreed with me. Students who simply agreed with everything in the text book and repeated it back to me in tests were not learning anything, and they made me feel useless. However, I was pleased when a student raised his hand and said, “Dr. Cummings, what you just said doesn’t make sense to me.” It would capture the attention of the whole class, and they would join in with their ideas and questions. Then I knew they were thinking, and finally, learning.
I have several critics today who have begun to think about scripture and God and eternity in different ways and that pleases me. But I know it’s sometimes painful to part with “what I learned in Sunday school,” and some of my critics lash out in anger. Creede Hinshaw, our religious columnist, offered a whimsical Christmas gift to writers protesting my columns: book No. 1: Disagreeing Without Assigning Your Opponent to Hell, and No. 2: Defending the Faith Without Suffering a Panic Attack.
I seem to have two types of critics who would benefit by these books if only they existed:
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No. 1: The Wanna-Be Preacher. A man named Wade writes online every week. It doesn’t matter what I’ve written; what matters is what Wade feels like preaching and he always gets “the call.” He will fill as much space as our editor will allow, and he maintains he must do this to protect all readers from my heretical and damaging mis-information. The Wades of this world are so arrogantly positive that truth is static, and he has it all, that he fights with Quixotic persistence. He dies noble, but ignorant.
No. 2. The Intelligent Researcher. A man named Will Daniels digs deeply into the content of my presentations and finds both the good and the bad. He leaves the good alone and plows into any contradictions or confusion I have caused either deliberately or subconsciously. The Daniels of this world crave certainty and proclaim loudly that “God does not cause confusion.” Despite this obvious error, I think his intellectual integrity will bear fruit.
Regardless, however, I think criticism is good for the soul; both for the soul of the sender and the soul of the receiver. The sender must examine what he’s reading. Before he casts the first stone at the heretic, he must be sure he’s objectively evaluating what’s written, not what he thinks the author “really means.” I think every critic who begins objectively and without bias, will learn something.
The receiver has the same opportunity and the same responsibility. Even though his ego has been dented, he must put aside his prejudice and ask himself, “OK, is there any truth to this criticism?” And that’s not easy to do, believe me. I am not predicting a complete conversion for either party — just learning.
If Creede Hinshaw will permit me, I’d like to re-name his imaginary books:
1. Have a discussion, not a name- calling argument.
2. Defend your opinion with facts and logic, not faith.
If we could do both things, I believe all the columnists and all the critics could have a wonderful new year, advancing their knowledge level by learning new ways to examine old truths.
Google for my latest book: https://www.amazon.com/Oh-My-God-Bill-Cummings/dp/1937943380